Today, I want to talk about courting and unpack relationships. I want to share with you something that has revolutionized my understandings of love during this time that Vic and I have been together. This post has been brought to you by: coffee shop meetings with my amazing mentor; my own heartaches, stubbornness, and failures; and (most importantly) by a God who refines us in the fires of heartache while repairing us with His grace.
This feeling of worthlessness, depravity, imperfection, and pain isn’t unique to my experiences in pursuing love. I’ve been in many a prayer group where a young person expresses their feelings of self-disgust, pity, and loneliness. I’ve heard many prayer requests for healing heartache and I have offered counsel to young people in pursuit of their “Mr/Miss Right.” There’s something about the spectrum of relationships and the pursuit of romance that shows our deepest insecurities and shine light on our depravity. It sucks! Yet, instead of working hard to become the instrument God needs us to be, we mope in the darkness and write soddy little posts on our tumblogs (don’t worry, I’ve done it too). Heartache sucks and patience is a pain in the ass. We just want our love stories and perfect spouses that we deserve, right?
Stop right there and humble yourself. Don’t ask too much from God when you haven’t put in the work of building your character. You can tell me that you’ve built your character for umpteen years, but have you? If your objective for life is to gain a spouse then you’re doing it wrong because you’re denying God His right to build your character.
Courting, relationship, and romance doesn’t work the way the world tells us it should. There’s no crazy raunchy sexcapade. There is no trial and error. It is not supply and demand (as in, “there are not that many Christians’ right now so you might as well date this one”). Romance and relationship begin with character building. My favorite example of true romance (aside from the cross) comes from the Book of Ruth. There’s no candlelight in this story, there’s no great power ballad, and there are no fireworks. To the world, it’s a pretty disappointing tale. Too bad, we’re not of this world and our love shouldn’t be. We should be like Ruth and Boaz: there was no pursuit of relationship here. There is only blessings from God for these two had a godly character and Biblical romance unsurpassed by many who had lived and walked and breathed upon this earth…
Ruth is a Moabite (modern-day Arab). She’s not a part of the Hebrew bloodline and is therefore and outsider from a race that was traditionally exclusive. She does something radical: she leaves her tribe to be with and care for Naomi, her Hebrew mother-in-law. She takes up Hebrew culture and she faithfully proclaims that YHWH is her Lord and provider. In her heartfelt proclamation says some of the most beautiful verses in all of scripture…
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth works diligently to take on the burdensome role to be an outsider in a Hebrew land and glean harvest so that she and her mother in-law will survive. During this difficult season she continues to be faithful to God. She’s faithful, persistent, loyal, honest, and compassionate. She is generous, loving, strong, serene, able to take on the unusual task of caring for her mother-in-law while taking on the circumstances of her revolutionary life. Her husband had died and her homeland & family are now strangers to her. But despite the heartache she’s facing, Ruth works hard to provide for a mother-in-law that is mourning her son. She is obedient to Naomi and, most importantly, obedient and enthralled with YHWH, her new and everlasting God.
Then there is the character of Boaz. Every time I think of Boaz I smile. He’s exactly what every man, woman, and child should strive to be. He is wealthy, but not greedy. He is a leader but not haughty. His character is saturated with virtues like faithfulness, acceptance, compassion, protectiveness, and humility. Despite the many workers on his farmlands, he notices Ruth, listens to her testimony, and does all in his power to ensure her safety even though she’s an outsider. He sustains and supports her even though he has no obligation to.
One night, Ruth follows Naomi’s directions (which, I must add, sound kind of like seduction and makes me kind of uncomfortable). Ruth, bathed in perfume and adorned in her nicest clothing, surprises Boaz by lying at his feet. She must have been frightened; she knew her reputation was on the line in so many capacities and she needed him to say yes and become her kinsman redeemer. Boaz must have been startled, there’s a woman in his bed! Instead of using this as an opportunity to take advantage of her, he listens to her. He blesses her. He gives her food. He protects her reputation.
What follows next is almost heartbreaking. Though Boaz clearly cares for Ruth he sacrifices his desires for her so that a relative that is next in line will redeem her family through marriage. It breaks my heart when I read these verses. How can someone with that much love for another person deny himself? How could Boaz sacrifice his desire for Ruth? He does it solely because he cares for her enough to know that her reputation and safety in that community comes first. Boaz is not selfish with his love, instead he is loyal and compassionate and wants to ensure that Ruth gets all she deserves.
God blesses them with marriage and little Obed. The beautiful thing about the book of Ruth is that the end of the story isn’t the union of Boaz and Ruth. The ending of their story happens 30 generations later. They’re great(x30) grandson is born of a virgin and lives to die and become resurrected so that He can be our kinsman redeemer. I definitely believe that this is symbolic of what our relationships should be: two people with beautifully godly characteristics working together to bring Christ into this world.
I’d like to end with some advice. This is for those of you investing their time in courtship and dating; the broken hearts who were recently dumped; the ones who are in relationships that you know aren’t fruitful; the children of God who are dissatisfied with the low quality of Christian spouses. Find your Boaz. Find your Ruth. Be a Boaz. Be a Ruth. Build yourself up for this standard of character. Proclaim that this is the only standard of character you’re willing to be with. Don’t waste your time on someone who won’t bring the blessing of Christ to you in a relationship. Don’t be with someone who loves your selfishly. Most importantly, don’t settle when you know that there is a Boaz out there who’s willing to love you with the fullness of heart that can only come from humbleness of character.